Spirituality as a Coping Mechanism for Chronic Illness

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Chronic illness and sickness includes more than just the physical treatment of a disease process. Health care relational models emphasize that adequate care for an illness involves ensuring that a patient's emotional health and well-being is addressed along with one's physical well-being. During a health care assessment, a doctorally prepared advanced practice nurse (APN) should take into consideration the patient's physiological, social, neurological, and spiritual health. Today's health care arena does not allow or reimburse for lengthy assessments or extensive health histories, practices, and support systems. The time allotted instead is spent listening to each patient's current issues, making an assessment and diagnosis, and formulating a treatment plan and educating the patient accordingly. Because of the drive for efficiency, mainly because of reimbursement reductions, providers may doubt the necessity to discuss spirituality in the management of chronic illness. Patients that lack a social support system especially may benefit from a doctorally prepared APN's nurturing of their spirituality for emotional comfort. Spirituality influences the ability of the patient to cope with chronic pain, either negatively or positively, and is acknowledged by doctorally prepared APNs as an important coping mechanism. For these reasons, doctorally prepared APNs should be aware of community resources to support patients with their spiritual growth and well-being.

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